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Spanish Cuisine

Spanish cooking is rich and varied, much like the country itself. First-rate ingredients, the excellence of which are renowned, wise old popular traditions and the promotion of fine new culinary professionals have boosted Spain's gastronomic prestige to the top of the list in Europe over the past few years.

You can find a sample of our favourite Spanish recipes here.

In general, there are six major gastronomic zones in mainland Spain.

The North is one of the richest culinary areas. The fish and seafood of Galicia, among the worlds finest, are prepared in ways that are simply insuperable. Basque cooking is world famous, and its codfish recipes, "pil-pil" or Vizcayan style, and its delicious baby eels are some of Spain's finest food attractions. In Asturias, try "fabada", a magnificent bean stew, and the excellent regional cheeses with a good bottle of cider.

The Pyrenees is a zone that specializes in marinade sauces known as "chilindrones". Aragon offers an infinite number of dishes with these tasty sauces as well as the fine ham made in Teruel.

Cataluña is the land of casseroles. Besides these typical dishes are its fine sausages, cheeses and regional sauces, some of them world famous, such as "ali-oli", made with garlic and olive oil.

Valencia and the surrounding region specialise in rice dishes. Besides their famous "paella", the Valencians are able to prepare exquisite rice dishes with any type of ingredients - meat, chicken, seafood, vegetables or fish. Also exquisite is the rice dish from the region of Murcia known as "caldera", or caldron.

Andalucia is the land of fried food. Its fried fish is insuperable. There is also gazpacho, the exquisite cold vegetable soup, and Jabugo ham from the province of Huelva which is a true delicacy.

Central Spain is known for its roasts. Lamb, veal, sucking pig, young goat and other meats are slowly roasted in wood ovens to give them an especially delicious texture and taste. The fine hams and cheeses, and some of the Best sausages in Spain, round out this region's culinary offering. Madrid, so closely linked to Castille, deserves special mention. Despite not having a specific cuisine, per se, its strong identity has made a mark on a large number of typical dishes from the city. Among them are "cocido madrileño", a nourishing meat and vegetable stew, Madrid style triple and exquisite sweets. Another important chapter on Spanish cooking must be dedicated to island cuisine.

The Balearic Isles have created certain celebrated specialties that have been exported around the world. Among them are mayonnaise, originally created in the city of Mahon, in Menorca. In Mallorca, "ensaimadas" are exquisite light pastries, while "sobrasada" is a tasty sausage.

The Canary Islands offer a very imaginative cuisine that has had to overcome the limitations of the islands produce. Many dishes include fish and a famous hot sauce known as "mojo picón". There are also magnificent tropical fruits from the island such as bananas, avocados and papayas.

Restaurants

The excellence of Spanish gastronomy can be seen in the offer of the numerous fine restaurants. A reflection on a country where the people love, respect and enjoy good food, Spanish restaurants can satisfy any demand. They are classified in five categories, indicated by a number of forks. These establishments almost always close one day a week, usually Sunday or Monday. Visitors will find that opening and closing times tend to be later than in other countries, though in the tourist areas the hours are often moved ahead or service is continuous. The menu, which normally includes the price of each dish, is frequently displayed outside the restaurant. If not, one can request to see a menu before being seated. In any case, eating in Spain can be an inexpensive treat. A large number of Spanish restaurants take major international credit cards.

Wines

Wine is the Spanish beverage par excellence. With France and Italy, Spain is one of the top wine producers in the world. It has a great variety of high quality wines, grown and elaborated in over 57 different areas, among which are some that are truly exceptional.

Rioja wine is the king of Spanish table wines. The winegrowers in La Rioja, who know that they produce one of the world finest wines jealously protect its quality, while strict official norms concerning the origin of wine make fraud impossible and guarantee the prestige of these exquisite red wines of such unmistakable bouquet and flavour.

Sherry is the most international Spanish wine, thanks to yearly exports to numerous different countries. There are five different kinds of this Andalucian wine, whose name in English derives from "Jerez" because the first vineyards of this type of wine were in the town of Jerez de la Frontera. There is "Manzanilla", "Fino", "Amontillado", "Oloroso" and "Los Dulces", or sweet Sherries.

Catalan Cava, grown in the Penedes region in Cataluña, is an excellent sparkling wine whose magnificent cost/quality ratio has allowed it to compete with French champagnes on the most demanding international markets.

Beer

This beverage lacks a great tradition in Spain, though currently it is quite popular and there are many breweries meeting the country's demand. Spanish beer is inexpensive for the most part and has low alcohol content. It is served cold and is not a common beverage at meals. Beer is most frequent as an aperitif to accompany the exquisite "tapas" offered in most bars around the country.

Liqueurs

Spain's famous brandy is the Best known of the Spanish liqueurs but it is hardly the only one. Actually, each region has its own special liqueur. The herb liqueurs from Galicia and Ibiza, "pacharan" from Navarre, Levantine Absinth Andalucian "cazalla" and the strong-smelling anisette from Chinchon, near Madrid, are a few examples. Of special note is "orujo" or "aguardiente", which is a stiff spirit distilled in many northern regions. In general, the visitor to Spain will find that the liqueurs are characterised by an excellent quality/cost ratio.

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